What is a koan? Most people with an interest in Zen have heard of koans, but not everyone has a clear understanding of what they are. Most people think of them as being a type of “Zen riddle,” but most of the classic compilations of koan (such as the “Blue Cliff Record”) are anecdotes, not questions.
Some people think the koan is a type of nonsense question designed to shock the mind into enlightenment, but there are right answers and wrong answers to koan questions, so how can the questions be nonsense?
Other people think that since collections of “koan answers” have been published, earning your “Zen master diploma” should be as easy as memorizing all the answers- but trying that with a real Zen master is liable to get you whacked with a stick.